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“Uh...” The curly haired boy narrowed his eyes at the rumpled thing thrusted ridiculously close to his face and raised an eyebrow. “What exactly is this?”

 


“A scrunchie.” The blond chirped merrily and wiggled the piece of colorful fabric in his hand, a wide grin on his face. “For your hair.”

 


Chad blinked a few times at the elastic band hidden inside a rainbow colored piece of wrinkled fabric with two perky rabbit ears on top of it, and returned his gaze at the skinny boy’s should not at all be adorable, but still adorable, cheeky grin. Of course he knew it was a scrunchie, girls used those to tie their hair up all the time, but that’s not the point. Ryan had just said it was for his hair, and he had no idea what it meant.

 


My hair?” He gestured at the perfectly bouncy curls on his head, the pride and joy of him for all eighteen years of his life. His hair was amazing, he didn’t need anything for it.

 


“Yup.” The blond waved the scrunchie in his hand. “To tie your hair up when you play basketball. You don’t want to have another ball slammed you in the face when the hair narrowed down your vision, do you? Like last week?”

 


Oh yeah, last week. Chad winced as he remember the accident: he always loved his hair and proud of it, but especially not at that moment. He never had the habit to tie his hair in basketball practice to clear his vision, since he was perfectly capable of seeing with all the hair bouncing around, he’s been doing it his whole life. But last week was an accident: He lost his focus for just one second when he suddenly spot Ryan on the bleachers, and before he could react, an orange ball flied to him out of nowhere and unfortunately, was in the blind spot covered by his hair, and slammed on his face with enough force to send him to the floor. People started to gather around him to check, blood started to pour from his nose and the numbing pain on his cheek was shutting him down. He had been in this kind of accident before, when he was new to the sport, but it was a long time since he got the feeling, and this time Troy did pass the ball a little harshly.

 


He was still concious, thank god, but unable to move without collapsing, and they had to bring him to the hospital for treatment. Before the ball hit his face, he still remembered the horrified expression on the blond's face on the bleachers, and then suddenly Ryan jumped past all of the seats to get down to the court to check on him. He tried to say he was fine, it’s not like he was gonna die or something, but Ryan was frightened: he looked like he was about to cry.

 


Chad was okay, of course, not even a broken nose, just a little bleeding and a huge bruise on his cheek. But the bruise was well hidden under the dark color of his skin, and quickly melted away before he even knew it.

 


Back to the point, it wasn’t the hair's fault he got distracted last week. It was Ryan. The baseball-lover, basketball-hater Ryan. Well, not hater, but he never liked basketball anyway. In a place like East High, not liking basketball was treacherous. He showed no interest to the sport, and only came to the biggest game once a year for the school spirit. He told Chad it bored him. They had a whole lot of bickering and arguing over that in the summer, Chad tried to explain to Ryan why basketball was the most amazing sport ever, tried to teach him how to play the game, and told him everything he knew about it.

 

Ryan nodded and listened to his babbling all afternoon and let him teach the blond how to do a free throw, but he still yawned uncontrollably whenever the Lava Spring members gathered for a basketball game on the big screen.

 


So after a while of not being able to change Ryan, Chad decided that he should at least entertained the boy in those basketball games by sitting down, pretending to serve him food and spending time to chat and joke with him all evening. After the awesome baseball game they played against each other and all the dancing sessions between Ryan and the Wildcats, Chad found out that the blond was actually pretty funny. And charismatic. And passionate. Somehow, to him, it seemed like talking and listening to Ryan about every meaningless, minor, ridiculous theater thing and hearing his lovely laugh everytime Chad made a joke was more interesting than watching the game. He told himself to never tell anyone he secretly preferred talking to Ryan Evans more than watching basketball on TV, and to tell jokes more often to hear the laugh. He loved the happy sound of it.

 


“It’s not my hair's fault I got distracted.” Chad rolled his eyes, pushing the weird elastic band away. Ryan scooted closer to look at him with his big, blue eyes under the delicate blond eyelashes.

 


“Then why?” He looked genuinely surprised.

 


“It’s you. I saw you there watching us practicing.” Chad put his hands on his hips and accused the blond, ignoring the fact that those pale cheeks suddenly got pinker. “You said basketball bored you! Why did you come?”

 


“Well, uh...” Ryan pressed his lips together awkwardly. “I just... I don’t know... Isn’t that what friends supposed to do...?”

 


“What?” Chad raised an eyebrow.

 


“I don’t know, Chad.” The blond huffed and crossed his arms defensively. “I never had a lot of friends apart from my sister, I don’t really know what people usually do. You’re like, the first one in forever and I don’t want us to end just because it’s school year and jocks don’t go with gay drama kids. Don’t basketball players need people to cheer for them or something? To win?”

 


“But it's a practice.” Chad blinked, tried not to laugh out loud. It’s weird seeing the always confident and attractive Ryan Evans being nervous in front of him, and it was like, cute. He didn’t even know what happened in the court at all, did he? “People don’t have to come to cheer in practice.”

 


“...Oh. Okay.” He bit his lip in embarrassment and looked away. “I’ll remeber that.”

 


“But doesn’t mean they can’t.” Chad shrugged and took the scrunchie from Ryan’s hand. “Having someone watching and cheering for you in practice was really cool. I like that.”

 


“I can totally go there the next time then?” The blond's excited smile returned, and Chad nodded, feeling himself smiling too.

 


“We’re friends, of course you can do that.” He laughed. It's like a puppy. No, like a baby duckling. The tiny, sunnily yellow, fluffily adorable creature that followed the first thing he saw and considered it his mommy. It’s almost sad how Ryan didn’t even know what having friends was like, but it didn’t matter anymore. He had Chad now, and the Wildcats too. He would soon know what it’s like, having friends that didn’t order you around or ditch you for their crush. Well, the ditching could totally happen, but Chad wouldn’t do that.

 


“But I think you should still use that.” Ryan pointed at the scrunchie. “You tied your hair back when you played baseball, you know how neccessary it was.”

 


“I have a bandanna for that. And scrunchies are for girls.” He looked at the rabbit ears bow and grimaced. “What’s with the rainbow color?”

 


“It’s almost pride month.” Ryan happily informed him and waved his rainbow colored tie on his neck. “You would support your only gay friend, right? And using a scrunchie will be a lot quicker than struggling with the bandanna behind your head.”

 


Chad looked closely at the wrinkling thing again, stretched it between his fingers and seeing it snapped back into shape. Ryan did have a point, tying back his hair with this would be so much faster and he didn’t have to bother with his vision the next time he kicked someone’s ass on the basketball court. And Taylor said he looked pretty hot with his hair tied back with two thumbs up, so it’s worth trying.

 


“Fine, only in the court. It’s my signature identity, I can’t just change it.” He used his hand to comb his hair backwards and tied it back with the scrunchie. Ryan magically had this hand mirror out for him, and he looked at himself. Awesome. He looked terrifyingly gay with a girly colorful rabbit ears scrunchie behind his head, but still awesome. “But if I lost it—“

 


“You won’t.” Ryan shook his head when Chad pulled the elastic band off and snapped it from his hand, slipped it into his wrist. “See? I'll be at every practice to give it to you and I'll keep it for you at the end.”

 


He did a jazz hand with the rabbit ears wiggling on his wrist, and Chad laughed.

 


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“Nice... Hair tie you got there.” Troy narrowed his eyes when he saw Chad coming out from the locker room, and the curly haired boy grinned.

 


“Yeah. Guess what, there’s no basketball could slam into my face anymore.” He started his warm up routine next to Troy in the line, knowing that from the rows of seat, there was a blond sitting, watching him.

 


“And your boyfriend chose the rainbow color because of the gay pride flag, of course.”

 

Troy rolled his eyes, and stretched his arms, voice obvious like he was talking about the weather.

 


“What? Boyfriend?!” Chad screamed quietly, eyes wide at his bestfriend, and the other boy blinked.

 


“Yeah. Or are you still playing hard to get?” Troy shook his head slowly. “And they say Sharpay is mean for leading on Zeke.”

 


“What are you talking about?” Chad pulled him around to face him. “What does that mean?”

 


“You. Ryan. Are you two dating or not?” Troy shrugged, and Chad shook his head frantically.

 


“I’m not dating him! Seriously, why did you think of it? Stop making fun of him, it's not cool.”

 


“Oh, really. Sorry then.” Troy turned away and continued his stretching. “I’ll come back when you found out.”

 


What the heck did that even mean? Why did Troy talk like he knew something and Chad didn’t? Seriously, the whole 'why aren’t you and Ryan boyfriends' thing was getting really old. Taylor was the first one to say it, and he was completely shocked. He explained to her that they were just friends, and there was nothing romantic happening between them, but she chuckled and ignored him. Gabriella was the next, she kept giggling everytime Ryan came into the room and sat down on the seat next to Chad. When Chad asked why, she said because she could literally saw how his face lit up when he saw Ryan coming closer, and he couldn’t believe there was such a thing. Well, yeah, of course he was happy to see Ryan, it was always the highlight of the day to be able to talk to the boy and listen to the story of his that could make Chad roll on the floor laughing, but he swore there was nothing like 'his face lit up'. Nope, he was happy, not having a crush on someone. Kelsi insisted otherwise: she claimed that they were definitely acting like a couple, by pointing out how many gifts they exchanged, including Ryan's new hat that he somehow kept wearing all week and the fancy hardcover Dark Knight Metal graphic novel that Chad jumped when he received from the blond, and also the ice cream that they shared at the lunch table. She said just looking at them sitting in the library and Chad patiently explained some terrifying physics to Ryan before the next lesson in class so he could catch up easier and everyone would agree that Troy and Gabriella couldn’t stand a chance. Against them. In a Cute Couple Contest. Ridiculous. He meant, yeah, Ryan's pout when Chad guided him with the physics was cute enough to win in a Cute Contest, but a couple? Seriously?

 


“Okay, why do you think we are dating?” Chad asked Troy as they paired up for some passing practice. Fine, listening to others' claims about how adorable they were of a couple was not something that he hated so much. He was rather curious.

 


“When was the last time we hang out?” Troy passed the ball to him, and he caught it, eyes wide.

 


“Uh—“

 


“Yeah, I don’t really remember, either.” Troy shrugged. “But it’s really long. I was spending time with Gabi, and you were spending time with Ryan. You went shopping with him, you played baseball with him, you went to see him in rehearsals and he is seeing you in our practice. Right now. You two were inseparable.”

 


Chad frowned, and he apologized as he tossed the ball through the hoop. “I’m sorry, the two of us should hang out more.”

 


“Hey, it's okay, I'm not mad, come on, it's not like anyone can replace me in your life or me in yours,” Troy grinned. “But I'm just pissed how you and that boyfriend of yours kept mocking me and Gabi about being the cheesy lovebirds and laugh at us all the time.”

 


“Hey, I didn’t need anyone standing up on the bleachers to screeeeaaaam my name when I was pushed to the ground in the final game.” Chad rolled his eyes, stuck his tongue out to Troy. The brown haired boy winced.

 


Oh boy, what a hell of a topic that Chad and Ryan laughed at together. Ryan was still angry how Troy fell when the West High Knights pushed him to the ground and the whole court gasped for his safety, but then when Chad fell, no one (but him) bat an eye. But then it’s probably because Chad immediately bounced back up and joined the game right away instead of lying down on the floor. Ryan grinned at him, his eyes sparkled when he hugged Chad and talked about how awesome he was out there. And asked him about his shoulder. And secretly shared the life lesson that his dad taught him since he was little: Why do we fall? We fall because someone pushes us. And we get up to push back.

 


It was violent and agressive, but it was funny. Like the whole idea about Ryan.

 


“Fine, fine, call me a pussy anytime you want.” Troy rolled his eyes. “But you two act like that all the time.”

 


“Like what?”

 


“Like us. He didn’t scream your name when you fell but he wore the mascot costume just to cheer for you. And you screamed for him when he won that competition. The, you know, something—“

 


“The dancing competition.”

 


“Yeah, that.” Troy continued. “And he visited the hospital everytime we saw him last week, when you were injured. He was worried, a lot.”

 


Chad hummed, never stopped bouncing his ball. They were playing a one on one, and even though Chad loved to talk about how Ryan cared for him, he preferred doing something to show off to Ryan.

 


“And he gave you this hair tie, and did you see how he wears the hair tie on his wrist all the time? Did you see To all the boys I've loved before, because that’s exactly—HEY!”

 


Chad managed to slid through Troy's open side and jumped to tip the ball through the hoop among the claps and cheers from the team, grinning as the other boy groaned, and turned around to see the look on Ryan's face. And what he hell. Chad’s eyes were wide open when he stared at the blond, sitting on the bleachers, happily chatting with some random guy and not paying attention to Chad’s previous cunning trick to get past Troy. Unbelievable.

 


“Oooh, someone's jelly.” Troy whistled in his ear, and for just a second, he stole the ball from Chad’s hands and scored. Damn it.

 


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Chad lied in his bed with the scrunchie in his hand. He had been looking at the tiny piece of elastic band for hours and groaning in frustration. It was a really cute little rainbow thing, that he had just realized that was custom made. He couldn’t find it anywhere else, even on the internet or any shop around Albuquerque, popular or expensive. He even asked Taylor and Gabi about it, and they claimed that it was one of a kind. Normal scrunchies didn’t come in that six colored rainbow, and there was no brand or names on it. He had been looking at it from every angle and even used a magnifying glass to see it in more detail. It told him that Ryan especially ordered this as a special gift for him and him only, and no common friends of him got that kind of honor. It meant that he was special to Ryan.

 


The scrunchie was not the only thing that made Chad so sure about his priority in Ryan’s heart: the blond said so himself, and he did a wonderful job in showing his affection towards the curly haired boy. Ryan was never too busy to reply to his messages or to spend time for him, and Ryan never seemed to hesitate to give Chad everything he ever wanted. Chad didn’t ask, but he observed, and listened, and he always knew what Chad needed. And Chad loved being special to someone, people normally considered him to be a sidekick of Troy, a shadow, a supporting character in a movie that Troy was the main attraction. It was mean to sometimes be envious of your best friend, but then Troy had it all. He had basketball, he had singing, and he had Gabriella. After his not-so-official relationship with Taylor ended, the only thing Chad had was basketball. But then when Ryan came into view, he somehow became the special one, the main guy of his own story, where he had all the attention and the love he deserved.

 


Ryan changed his view entirely about theater and musicals, changed his loneliness into happiness, and made him feel like he always meant so much to the blond. That’s what he believed, and what he always thought was true. But then this stranger suddenly came from no where to approach his Ryan, and he was no longer the only one. It's only been a week since the basketball practice that Ryan met the guy, and also a week since he and Chad had a fight.

 


Chad was upset. He was waiting for the blond to come to his practice to let him see how he looked in that scrunchie he gave him, and see how amazing Chad was on the basketball court. He wanted to show Ryan how wonderful basketball was as a sport, and he wanted Ryan to be proud to have a friend so good at it. And the whole time, the blond didn’t even pay attention to him. This new guy suddenly came to sit next to Ryan when Chad was practicing, and robbed him from Chad until the end. They distracted Chad the whole time that day, made him lost to Troy in the easy as pie one-on-one game, made him miss a bunch of throws, and messed up terribly. Ryan laughed at the guy's jokes exactly how he laughed at Chad’s jokes, and it upset him. Suddenly he was no longer the special one, the only one in Ryan’s mind, and he was so angry and frustrated he didn’t bother to go home with Ryan that day.
He skipped their normal trip home from school despite missing Ryan’s fancy car like crazy, and went home with Troy. He pulled the stupid scrunchie from his hair the moment Coach told them the practice was over, and he almost threw it into the trash can. Luckily he was still in his mind and just stuffed it into his bag, ignored Ryan's call and his surprised, sad blue eyes. And Troy’s teasing made everything worse.

 


The tension started on that day. Ryan was oblivious of the reason why Chad was mad at him, and Chad didn’t tell him either. He was just snapping at the blond all the time, glaring at him, ignoring him, mocking his words, and being the as bitter and sarcastic as possible. He didn’t want to hurt Ryan or get on his nerves, but everytime he looked at the blond and that guy again, he was pissed and left without a word. He brought the scrunchie with him to school everyday, but never took it out of his school bag even once, much less wearing it. The cold war went on with everyone slowly got frightened at the tension between them, until this morning, when Ryan had enough and slammed his locker with more force than neccessary.

 


“If you liked someone, then you should grow some balls and tell them that instead of being a giant dick.” The blond growled, and pushed his palm to Chad’s face. “Give it back.”

 


“What?” Chad dumbly asked, and Ryan groaned.

 


“The scrunchie. I want it back.”

 


“Oh wow, so now you’re being the petty one and take things back after giving them to others?” Chad rolled his eyes and fished his hands into his pocket to find the thing.

 


“No, I'm just taking back the thing that doesn’t belong to you. Really, I thought you could be smart enough to know what it means.” He mumbled. “But then you’re just a stupid selfish dick and I shouldn’t have given it to you.”

 


Chad wanted nothing more than to take the sparkly rainbow scrunchie out of his pocket and push it in Ryan’s hand to end this over with, he's not in the mood to deal with someone who didn’t care about him, but he realized he didn’t have it with him. He took it out to look at it and, yeah, try to find out what it meant, last night before he went to sleep, and he left it on the bedside table. He woke up late this morning, since he didn’t go to sleep until 3 am from the frustration of thinking about Ryan, and forgot it on the table.

 


“I left it at home.” Chad sighed. “You’ll have it back tomorrow.”

 


Ryan didn’t answer, just turned around and left.

 


Ryan, with his stupid girly scrunchie and stupid adorableness and stupid friendliness towards any fucking body in the room. He was a freakin angel to everyone, from Gabriella to Zeke and everyone he met. Even the random guy, who kept following him around and bothering him. He was too polite to shoo the guy away, but Chad knew it. He saw Ryan looked around to make sure the random guy wasn’t there before stepping in the theater. Chad angrily sat up from his bed and bolted to the door, taking the scrunchie with him. Fine, you want it back, you'll have it back


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“What are you doing here?” The blond looked at him and snapped quietly, closing the gate behind him.

 


“Giving this back.” Chad held out the scrunchie, and Ryan rolled his eyes.

 


“Right, of course. What else.” He reached out a hand to take the scrunchie, and Chad chose that moment to grab his wrist and pulled him in for a kiss.

 


Ryan's eyes were wide open with shock, his mouth slightly parted and Chad boldly swept his tongue in, discovered the hot, wet feelings of the other boy's mouth and nipped at his absurdly pink lips. He pushed the piece of elastic band into Ryan’s hand and used both of his hands to clutched onto his hips, pulled him flush against his body. And just like that, the blond's arms snaked up around his shoulders, purposely grounded on the bruises he got when he fell in the first practice, and eagerly kissed back, swallowed his grunt of pain.

 


“If you like someone, tell them? Really? You were just waiting for me to do this, weren’t you?” Chad murmured when they came up for air, and the blond licked his lips, panted hungrily.

 


“Took you long enough.” Ryan purred and pulled him inside the house while still maintain skin contact, hands groped agressively.

 


“I'm giving this back,” Chad took the scrunchie from Ryan’s hand and tossed it on top of the shoes cabinet, shoving him back against wherever he was leading him, mouth nibbling on the milky pale neck. “And I'm taking you. Deal?”

 


Ryan moaned.